God's call to celibacy in our day
Nearly 300 men and women in the Jesus Fellowship are committed to staying single for Jesus. They are a motivating effective force within the Fellowship. They "travel light", free from the responsibilities of marriage and family. They bring a radical edge to the church.
Celibates build close relationships. They possess a prophetic clarity in bringing God's direction to the church. They are a mobile army of "shock troops" able to pioneer and plant new churches with flexibility and authority.
Celibacy opens up new opportunities. "As a celibate," said a Jesus Fellowship sister, "you begin exploring the great potential of life in Jesus."
The church needs celibates
Celibacy is God's gift to be single for the kingdom of God. [Matt 19:12] It's not "monastic" or just dead tradition! It can include unmarried parents, widows and widowers and the divorced.
Celibates are essential to the "household" or "family of God", the church. [Eph 3:15] Jesus said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother, and sister and mother". [Matt 12:50] We belong to an "always there" family of marrieds and singles covenanted together in the Holy Spirit.
In the Jesus Fellowship those considering the call to celibacy are urged to have a probationary year before making a lifelong commitment sealed with a covenant declaration. Others may choose to be committed to the single state for a period, say, of five years. No one is allowed to make a full commitment to celibacy until age 21, although they may consider any years prior to this as "committed to celibacy" in probationary terms.
Celibacy in the New Testament
Jesus is the great role model. As a celibate, He was a complete human being. He had deep relationships with friends and disciples but found his ultimate satisfaction in loving the Father. He knew all human emotions and temptations. His celibate large-heartedness was creative -- not restrictive. His pure and undivided life has inspired multitudes. Effective New Testament men such as Paul and others were celibate.5
Consider this! In the New Testament it is said there are 820 words concerning celibacy and staying single for the Lord and 1,370 dealing with marriage. This ratio should be reflected in church life. Christianity must not swallow the dangerous myth that fulfilment means sexual fulfilment, with marriage as the expected norm. Single people must not be patronised or excluded. They are essential!
Make the greatest impact
Paul saw things from a "seek first the kingdom" perspective. His desire, in times of persecution and intense spiritual warfare was that Christians should remain in their pre-conversion state. [1 Cor 7:20] The singles should be celibate, "undivided" in their hearts, [1 Cor 7:35] "holy in body and spirit", [1 Cor 7:34] "free from anxieties and worldly troubles" [1 Cor 7:28,32] and filled with a "devotion to the Lord". [1 Cor 7:35] Celibacy is the "better" or higher way. [1 Cor 7:38]
There is no marriage in heaven. [Matt 22:30] The spirit of the New Testament says: "Be kingdom revolutionaries challenging the norms of a corrupt world and making the greatest impact you can for God!" Many will have the marriage "gift". [1 Cor 7:7] But Jesus spoke of those who would renounce marriage: "There are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it". [Matt 19:12] The word "receive" means "make room for", "achieve", or "dare". Jesus is saying: "If you can receive it, go for it!"
An uncompromising life
Church history is full of celibates for Jesus. Augustine, Bernard and John of the Cross had a burning desire for the Lord. Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila were devoted and passionate lovers of God. Many Anabaptist pioneers lived as if unmarried, or never long enough to be married!
Numberless missionaries and servants of the Lord have sacrificed marriage for the sake of the gospel -- men and women who "loved not their lives to death". [Rev 12:11] Such names as David Brainerd, Gladys Aylward, Corrie Ten Boom, William Law, Gerhard Tersteegen, Frances Ridley Havergal, Mary Slessor and others -- all discovered the secret of serving the Lord without distraction. As Sadhu Sundar Singh expressed it: "My real marriage is with Christ. I do not say that marriage is not for others. But if I am already bound to Christ, how can I marry another?"
Whether it is a Helen Roseveare in the Congo or an Amy Carmichael in southern India, the power of living single for Jesus is undeniable.
Christians today are wanting a more wholehearted and expressive devotion to the Lord. Celibacy is the way to live an uncompromising life in Jesus and to build His church. It's revolutionary! Go for it!